Throughout the last weekend of October a very special event happens where people dress up as their favourite video game and pop culture characters in the centre of Melbourne. Many people might be thinking Halloween, but in fact, I am referring to the cosplayers at the Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX Australia 2015. Over three days: October 30, to November 1, thousands of people stream through the Melbourne Convention Centre, many of them sporting elaborate costumes representing characters from well known game franchises. Why do these people come together in this manner and what part do they play in the overall convention? As a group the Console Domination team covering PAX saw some of the best and worst in both costumes and behaviours, here is a brief description of what we saw and my opinion on how cosplayers impact the convention experience.
Starting the 3-day convention, Friday had a smaller number of people through the doors in comparison to the other two days, and consequently less cosplayers. However, as the weekend progressed, the crowds thickened and the elaborate costumes appeared. From an attendee perspective we saw everything: there were people who didn’t seem to have PAX passes but rather stood outside in costume all day to have their picture taken; cosplayers so exhausted by their daily efforts that they lay down in the hallways to briefly rest; some people had masks or headpieces so large and inflexible they needed handlers to march them through the heavy crowds. Several costumes were so large and complicated that in many cases supporting apparatus attached to the costumes had to be manhandled through the crowd so as not to damage other people or be damaged itself.
There wide variety of costumes that were elaborately built sculptures basically glued to human flesh; there was tremendously detailed paint creating the illusion of clothes and extra features; costumes made of spandex rendering outfits that could be greatly inappropriate into merely suggestive creativity; and as always, the costumes that would be more appropriate as strip club lingerie. Because of the vast array of efforts put into cosplay I am of two minds regarding the practice. Many of the participants take tremendous and well deserved pride in their work because of the period of time it takes to develop life like and accurate representations of their chosen characters. Other people use opportunities like PAX to show off a large amount of bare flesh, why they choose to do this I am opting not to speculate. This is perceived as a problem when PAX is considered as a community event: there are a large number of younger community members and family groups who attend the convention. It’s not appropriate to walk the streets in a g-string, be you male or female, and the same expectations should apply to a public event such as PAX. That said and done I have opted not to include pictures of costumes we speculated to be inappropriate in the gallery at the bottom of this article, rather I’d like to showcase some of the incredible talent people displayed over the weekend.
Cosplayer behaviour varied from enthusiastic and energetic to downright rude, a few small talks we had with some of the cosplayers can be seen on our YouTube channel. Many people in costume were happy to be pulled aside and photographed, eagerly answering questions about how long they had been building their outfit and why they chose that character. Some people had incredible stories to tell about the origins of their costume, like one woman styled as Lara Croft who created the outfit for a short Tomb Raider fan film. Other people were were elaborately dressed for the event had little time for their picture to be taken and even less time to answer questions. Like the costumes, their attitudes were diverse and their eagerness to genuinely show off their work varied from person to person.
Much like children line up at Disneyland to take their picture with Disney characters, people line up to take photos of and with the extravagantly costumed cosplayers. Many people see cosplayers as an opportunity to get a photo with their favourite character, and with such a buffet of rich, intricate costumes that it is easy to understand the emotional draw to interact with these costumed characters. During and after the convention these trophies of the PAX experience are plastered across Facebook, Instagram, every social media account they can log into. Cosplayers have become an important part of the gaming community, they actively show the world the impact that many of these games, films and graphic novels have had on people.
Seeing all of the extraordinary efforts of the cosplayers at PAX Australia 2015 completed the convention experience, because they add a unique and undefinable energy to the crowd. Some of them were badly behaved and were unpleasant to interact with where others could have been paid employees of the convention they were so accommodating and patient. Previously I mentioned some poor costume choices, and our team at PAX saw costumes they felt visually violated by on both men and women, but these people were few and far between. Crowd participation and behaviour has a profound impact on people’s enjoyment during an event like PAX so it was encouraging to see so many cosplayers who were there to contribute to the fun of the weekend. While there were so many great costumes on display over the weekend I only managed to photograph a small portion of people who dressed up, alas please have a look at the gallery on our Facebook page to see some of the characters that appeared over the weekend.
About: Sarah Rigg
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